Sparkling Vintage Fiction. Among other things.

Monthly Archives: February 2014

Retro Recipe Wednesday: Bettina’s Baked Eggs

bettina1Baked eggs are a wonderful and often overlooked treat. My own personal recipe for baked eggs, fine-tuned on hectic mornings during my office-worker-on-a-budget days, went something like this:

“Melt some butter in a little dish. Swish it around. Break in an egg or two. Stick it in a 350-degree oven. Go take a shower. When shower is finished, eggs will be, too. Don’t forget. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Eat. Then finish getting dressed.”

The fictional Bettina’s recipe for baked eggs (from A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband) is a little more complicated than that, but not much more. Each recipe in this sweet book is accompanied by a little story that is meant to teach the new bride of 1917 how to run a household. The stories generally feature know-it-all Bettina instructing one of her fluttery, airhead friends about some aspect of homemaking. The story that accompanies the recipe for baked eggs is called, “Alice Practices Economy.”

“‘Oh, Bettina,’ said Alice, delightedly, as she opened the door. ‘I’m so glad to see you! I’ve just been thinking about you! What do you suppose I’m doing?’

‘Getting dinner? That is what I must be doing very soon. I stopped in only for a minute on my way home.’

‘I am getting dinner, and I want to tell you that it is a very economical dinner. And it’s going to be good, too. I thought about your advice and decided to practice it. So I searched through all my cookbooks for the recipes I wanted, and finally decided on this particular menu. But Bettina, now I can tell you the flaw in your system of economy!’

‘What is that? Harry doesn’t like it?’

‘Goodness, no! Harry was delighted with the idea! My argument is this: It’s going to take me an endless amount of time to plan economical meals that are also good, time that I ought to spend in polishing silver and making calls, and sewing on buttons, and–‘

‘I don’t believe it’ll be as bad as you think, Alice, dear,’ laughed Bettina. ‘For instance, if this meal tonight is good and economical, and Harry is pleased, don’t forget the combination, but write it down in a notebook. You can repeat the menu in two or three weeks, and you have no idea how soon you will collect the best combinations and ideas of economy! Tell me what you are having tonight.’

That night Alice served baked eggs, potatoes escalloped with bacon, head lettuce salad, baking powder biscuits with butter, peach cup with peach sauce, and tea.”

Alice’s recipe for Baked Eggs:

2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbs. soft bread crumbs
1 Tbs. butter
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. paprika

Butter two individual molds and break an egg into each. Mix the salt and paprika in the milk, and pour half of the mixture over each egg. Melt the butter and add the crumbs. Place the buttered crumbs on top of each egg. Bake in a moderate oven twenty minutes. Serve in the molds.

Sparkling Vintage Fiction: Luck, Be a Lady (a short, short story)

Illustration by Coby Whitmore for the Saturday Evening Post, 1958, via Modern Retro Woman

Illustration by Coby Whitmore for the Saturday Evening Post, 1958, via Modern Retro Woman

My new short story, “Luck, Be a Lady” is now live at Modern Retro Woman.  The assignment was to write a short-short story based on the above picture from a 1958 Saturday Evening Post. Fun!

My story starts out, “With a swish of her satin skirt, Midge slid into her usual spot at the roulette table. The croupier—a dark-haired young man with eyes green as emeralds—smiled at her. ‘You’re back.'”

Read the rest here.

Many thanks to Julie-Ann at Modern Retro Woman for publishing my story!

Fashionable Friday: A Thought from Lucy Maud Montgomery

lm montgomery2
“My day for the frilly gowns of organdy and lace is over–henceforth I must wear the richer hues and materials of the matron. But I shall never be indifferent to dress. It is a very foolish woman who is–just as foolish as the one who makes it the foremost and only thing. Both are badly mistaken.”

L. M. (Lucy Maud) Montgomery is best known for writing Anne of Green Gables and its sequels, but she wrote many other books. (My personal favorite of hers is The Blue Castle.) I love her attitude toward clothes. She acknowledges that some types of clothing are more suitable for mature women than others, and that there is nothing wrong with this. There’s no need for a woman in her fifties to try to look twenty-five.The old expression “mutton dressed as lamb” is just as applicable today as it was in Lucy Maud’s day.

In this quote, Miss Montgomery also affirms that caring about what we wear is a good thing, when not taken to extremes. A woman who cares about her clothes is not automatically a shallow and vain clotheshorse, and a woman who pays no attention to her clothes does not automatically have the moral high ground. There is a lot of middle ground between the two extremes. As in most things, moderation is key.

Goodbye, Shirley Temple

shirley-temple-photo-3I was saddened today to hear about the death of Shirley Temple Black. As a dimpled, winsome child star in the 1930s, she cheered up millions of moviegoers during the dark days of the Great Depression. (In my current novel-in-progress, I’ve even named a girl character “Shirley” in her honor.)

Shirley worked hard, making some forty or fifty films over her lifetime, yet by most accounts emerged from stardom relatively stable and unscathed, unlike so many child actors. In adulthood she went into political life, eventually serving as U. S. Ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia and as the Chief of Protocol of the United States during the 1970s.

When I was a child, Shirley’s old movies often ran on Saturday-morning television. Even then, my peers were declaring her “corny,” but I loved to watch her sing and dance. To me she optimized childhood innocence, optimism, and even femininity (all those petticoats! all those ringlets!)–qualities that were quickly fading out of style even back then. Changing social values made a laughable anachronism of her golly-gee demeanor.

Today’s smart-n-sassy young ladies have traded in their fluffy dresses for cleats and helmets, their tap-dancing for twerking. Today, Honey Boo-Boo sets the standard of modern girlhood. Because “progress,” dontcha know.

You could not get much less hip or cool than Shirley Temple. Her movies were saccharine and melodramatic and unrealistic.

And if you ask me, the world could use a little more Shirley.

My favorite Shirley Temple movie is A Little Princess. What’s yours?

Sparkling Vintage Fiction: Ann Shorey’s Newest Heroine Builds a New Life in the Old West

shorey loves sweet beginning“A lady marries well. Her husband earns their livelihood.” The bed creaked as Mother sank onto the edge and covered her face with her hands. “Your reputation will be ruined.”

Cassie Haddon’s widowed mother has raised her to be a lady . . . which may have been well and good in the gentler world before the war, but in the post-Civil War West, with no kinfolk to rely on and no practical skills, Cassie has to figure out a way to support them both. Working for a living isn’t easy, but it’s better than relying on the charity of friends. When she takes a job in a grocery over her mother’s vehement objections, Cassie doesn’t count on developing feelings for Jacob West, the store’s owner. Neither does she count on her mother conjuring up a more “suitable” man for her to marry. If you’d enjoy a light, sweet inspirational romance set in the 1860s, give Ann Shorey’s Love’s Sweet Beginning a whirl. It’s the third book in the Sisters at Heart series, but the story also stands well on its own.

Disclosure: I’ve been given a review copy of this book by the publisher. This generosity, while appreciated, has not biased my review. I also post some of my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

Retro Recipe Wednesday: A Steamed Pudding

bettina february

You may recall Bettina, the star of A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband, a 1917 cookbook for new brides by Louise Bennett Weaver and Helen Cowles LeCron. In this episode, Bettina and her husband, Bob, have invited their newlywed friends Ruth and Fred, to dinner, and accomplished-cook Bettina is giving the scoop on her steamed pudding to can’t-boil-water Ruth. It sounded like a nice cold-weather dessert. [A caveat: I have not actually tried making this recipe. For one thing, I don’t care for raisins, and I don’t think I’d be big on suet, either. Plus, I’m a little scared of my pressure cooker. But the story, from a 1917 cookbook, is so charming that I had to share.]

A note about steamed puddings: What we in North America generally call pudding, others call custard or mousse:  a sweet, milk-based, creamy or gelatinous dish. (In the U.K., a pudding can be any dessert.) According to Wikipedia, the word “pudding” is believed to come from the French “boudin” meaning “sausage.” Traditional steamed puddings contained meat and were a savory dish rather than a sweet one. Bettina’s recipe contains suet, but it’s still a sweet dish. Here’s the story:

“This was a splendid dinner, Bettina,” said Ruth, as the two of them were carrying the dishes into the kitchen and Fred and Bob were deep in conversation in the living room. “Such a delicious dessert! Suet pudding, wasn’t it? I couldn’t guess all that was in it.”

bettina and ruth“Just a steamed fig pudding, Ruth. The simplest thing in the world! You could make it easily.”

“Simple? But don’t you have to use a steamer to make it in, and isn’t that awfully complicated? I’ve always imagined so.”

“You don’t need to use a steamer at all. I steamed this is my pressure cooker, in a large baking-powder can. I filled the buttered can about two-thirds full, and set it in boiling water than came less than halfway up the side of the can. Of course, the cover of the can or the mold must be screwed on tight. I cooked it without pressure for about an hour. Then I ran up the pressure to twenty pounds, cooked it that way for about ten minutes, and let the steam off. You see, it’s very simple. In fact, I think steaming anything is very easy, for you don’t have to keep watching it as you would if it were baking in the oven, and basting it, or changing the heat.”

“We haven’t a cooker, you know. Could I make a steamed pudding that same way on the stove?”

“Yes, indeed, the very same way. Just set the buttered can filled two-thirds full in a larger covered utensil holding oiling water. Keep the water boiling all the time.”

“I shall certainly try it tomorrow, Bettina!”

Here is Bettina’s recipe for Steamed Fig Pudding. If you dare to try it, let me know how you liked it!

1 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ginger
2/3 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 c. molasses
1/2 c. milk1/2 c. suet, chopped
1/3 c. chopped figs
1/3 c. stoned raisins
1/2 tsp. lemon extract

Mix the flour, soda, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and suet. Add the figs, raisins, molasses and milk. Stir well. Add the lemon extract. Fill a well-buttered pudding mold two-thirds full. Steam an hour and a half, with the water boiling. Serve hot with foamy sauce. Serves 4.

FOAMY SAUCE

1 egg
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. hot water
1 Tbs. lemon juice OR 1 tsp. lemon extract

Beat the egg vigorously. Add the sugar and mix well. Add the hot water and stir vigorously. Add the lemon juice. Serves 4. (This sauce may be reheated if desired.)

Super Bowl Sunday: What the Well-Dressed Football Fan Wore, circa 1943

(Or, Pigskin: It’s Not Just For the Ball Anymore)

football adPlanning to watch the Super Bowl today? For a taste of mid-20th-century elegance, forego the team jerseys and sweatpants and take a page from Grace Margaret Morton, who wrote a home economics text titled The Arts of Costume and Personal Appearance in 1943. About “spectator sports,” Miss Morton recommends attiring oneself thusly:

“Good taste for any spectator sport calls for clothes which are casual and nonchalant. Textures should be sturdy and practical, without glint or sheen. The girl on a limited budget will choose coats and suits which can do double duty as street clothes by change of accessories. . . . The coat may be an all-season coat with water-repellent finish and zip-in lining, a bulky knit coat of fingertip or shorter length, or a fur-lined cloth coat. It may be fashioned from tweed, cheviot, camel hair, boucle, fleece, suede, or leather. Plaids, stripes, and plain colors are used.

The suit that is tailored of sturdy tweed or similar fabric is an excellent choice. Warm-weather suits made of hopsacking, seersucker, cotton tweed, or cotton cord are appropriate.

The dress suitable for spectator sports and campus wear may be one from wool jersey, washable flannel, cotton jersey, or corduroy. Separate skirts of denim, seersucker, hopsacking, cotton tweed, cotton cord, and linen suiting are correct when worn with matching or contrasting shirts or blouses.

The hat in keeping with this casual wear will be a fabric or felt cap, beret, cloche, or any narrow-brimmed hat. Gay wool or silk is used in scarves or hoods. Your creativity will be expressed in the manner in which you wear your scarf; find an interesting way to wear it.

The shoe is generally flat. One may choose saddle shoes, brogues, moccasins, oxfords, or ghillies. They may be made of calf, pigskin, or buckskin. Pumps with low or medium heels and made of leather, straw, or linen are also proper choices.

The glove worn for spectator sports will be of capeskin, pigskin, or cotton suede. String gloves, gloves with leather palms, or gay woolen or angora mittens are other possibilities.

The handbag that is carried may have shoulder straps. Calf, novelty fabric, or saddle leather are often thought of in relation to this type of costume.

Jewelry must be very restrained in design. Metal, wood, or leather will express a harmonious relationship to the attire for these occasions.”

Of course, once you’re properly attired for the Big Game, it’s all for nought if you don’t know how to behave. Eleanor Boykin (This Way Please) advises fans on how to conduct themselves  properly:

“It is unsportsmanlike for the friends of a team to try to rattle players on the other side by booing or shouting personal remarks. Hurling criticism at the referee is both useless and crude. Enthusiasm for your side is a fine thing, but don’t let it carry you to bumptiousness. The members of a visiting team are your guests. Treat them like friendly enemies, and show them the courtesies you would like to have shown to your team on a return visit. When a player is hurt, forget sides. Give him a cheer, and all the assistance he needs. Back up your cheerleaders. Some stirring Rah! Rah!’s and choruses at the right time are not an affront to the opposing team.”

I’m off to dig up my pigskin gloves and jaunty beret. May the best team win!

 

 

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